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Governor Pounds Pension Problems in Town Hall Meeting

10-year-old girl steals the show, asks Christie to be a leader, not a follower on standardized testing.

Governor Chris Christie during a town hall meeting in Long Hill Township on Feb. 26, 2014.
Governor Chris Christie during a town hall meeting in Long Hill Township on Feb. 26, 2014.

Just a day after delivering his fifth consecutive budget to the state of New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie continued to bang the drum on spending, specifically the amount going into state-funded pensions, at his 111th town hall meeting.

The Mendham Township (Morris County) resident spent Wednesday morning just a few miles from home in Long Hill Township – the first town hall the governor held in that county since Feb. 2013.

After a few joking words about the accuracy of weathermen and pollsters, Christie launched into the magnitude of this year’s spending plan, which boasts a fifth consecutive year without a tax increase. 

“State taxes won’t go up as long as I’m governor,” Christie said to an applause. “I won’t do it.”

Christie focused on the enormous pension account that is, according to actuarial accounts, $52 billion underfunded. The governor threw blame at his predecessors for not addressing the issue during their stays in office as reason why the system was so far under water. 

“Can you have $52 billion in debt and do nothing about it?” he asked capacity crowd of 525 at the town’s community center. “Not even (Facebook founder) Mark Zuckerburg can bail us out of this problem.”

Christie said changes need to be made before his second term comes to a close, and incorporated Detroit, Michigan as precursor to what New Jersey could be in store for.

“Detroit is bankrupt because of its debt,” he said. “And that debt is because of its pension system. Of (Detroit’s) $11 billion in debt, $9.5 billion was from pensions.

“Detroit is giving us a preview if we don’t take care of this,” he said.

Earlier this week, watchdog-newjersey.com published a list of the state’s retired public employees currently receiving $100,000 annual pension payments. That list included 1,731 former public workers, nearly a 75-percent increase in three years.

Autism, Schooling Among Resident Concerns 

Known for the governor’s interaction with residents in an open setting, the town hall meetings often become YouTube sensations or fodder for pundits.

Wednesday’s town hall questions hit on issues from helping the mentally handicapped, specifically children with Autism – a category in which New Jersey has the highest rate of those classified in the country – to a hazardous landfill situation in Morris County and the more than 200 failing public schools in the state.

But as the event wore down and the governor called for two more questions, a 10-year-old girl named Abigail stole the show.  

In a lengthy, typed-out question, Abigail implored the state’s leader to keep the NJ ASK testing model and not move to PARCC – Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The crowd roared with applause when she finished her statement, part of which called on Christie to be a leader, not a follower, as many other states across the country had already switched models.

Christie couldn’t do much but smile and make the best of the situation, calling the young girl out into the roped off area designated for the speaker. He then told Abigail he’d give the question to outgoing Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, and that she should expect a phone call from him very soon.

Aside from a handful of protesters a few feet down the road, Christie’s second town hall of his second term as governor was a quiet one.

The administration announced the next town hall is scheduled for Tuesday, March 4 in Berkeley Township. 

Roll Back Our Tax March 09, 2014 at 08:21 AM
Ridgewood Mom...unless you have a learning deficit disorder I posted the results before what happens when you raise taxes on the wealthy. Again at the risk of repeating myself.... http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2010/02/nj_loses_70b_in_wealth_over_fo.html .... raise taxes on wealthy and they leave. Approximately $70 BILLION of wealth left state between 2004 and 2008. I'd like to see figures between 2009 and 2013. Probably all propaganda anyways right Ridgewood Mom?
Roll Back Our Tax March 09, 2014 at 08:25 AM
Ridgewood Mom....the public worker does have to say "take it out of the middle class". It's a GIVE IN. Is this so hard to understand?
Ridgewood Mom March 09, 2014 at 09:14 AM
YOU are shifting the burden to the middle class. To say that the public worker does not have to give away what they have contractually worked for so that very wealthy people can pay less tax than they ever have before places no burden, whatsoever, on the middle class. Personally, I would like to see taxes cut back substantially for middle and lower income households. THROUGH YOUR INSISTENCE that higher taxes for very wealthy persons can not even be contemplated, YOU ARE SHIFTING THE BURDEN TO THE MIDDLE CLASS. This is what Christie did with state taxes. Municipal tax rates went up, specifically to recoup lost revenue input from the state because of very wealthy people and businesses paying less tax to the state.
BellairBerdan March 09, 2014 at 09:29 AM
Think about this for a minute, Roll. NJ has had the highest taxes for quite some time now. Why are there any wealthy people here at all? Goes against your theory, doesn't it? Do you think when Christie took away the Homestead rebate in favor of lowering taxes for millionaires helped or hurt the middle class?
Roll Back Our Tax March 09, 2014 at 09:41 AM
Ridgewood Mom...you are right about the property taxes in "shifting the burden from the state to the municipalities" but NOT through "MY insistence". The rich will always find loopholes in the law and take advantage of them where others like me can't. NJ is best at this with the land preservation deals which end up as small farmer tax cuts for your NJ born boys like Bruce and Bon Jovi. Bruce even sings songs about the plight of the working class. LOL give me a break! What a fake! One of the reasons why we left NJ is I was tired of hearing all the hoopla about lowering property taxes and the 2% cap when 50% of NJ's 500 plus municipalities couldn't stay under cap because of all the loopholes in the law. Change the law and maybe you can get rid of the loopholes But don't blame me for shifting this to the middle class. How am I doing that? I fought my property taxes because they were out of control for what I was getting for my money. All they did was lower the property values and up the multiplier. Contracts are made to be changed. I covered this before too. I am in business and I have to change my contracts with my vendors to take less commission or lose it all to some other rep who will work for less. With all the degrees in the public sector you think the public worker would understand this. They might lose it all too! It's not Finance 101....this is Common Sense 101. And quit recommending your posts. Are you narcissistic? We will all read it if it has some value.
BellairBerdan March 09, 2014 at 09:56 AM
Why are there still millionaires in NJ Roll?
Roll Back Our Tax March 09, 2014 at 10:04 AM
BellairBerden...OK I thought about it. You just don't get it. See above post. So why is NJ having so much trouble collecting money and balancing the budget? Taking away Homestead rebate really hurt the people that were retired on fixed income and poor. They're the ones losing their homes to foreclosure because they can't afford their property taxes any longer. Those in the middle class that qualified were hurt too. What's your point?
Roll Back Our Tax March 09, 2014 at 10:13 AM
Ridgewood Mom and Bellair Berden...I wish I could spend more time today on this site repeating myself for you two but I have an in law suite to finish so my 84 year old retired in laws can move in because they could no longer afford their property taxes.
BellairBerdan March 09, 2014 at 10:15 AM
Roll, you deleted your posts again. But really, if you get it, explain why there are millionaires in NJ NY and CT, all states with high taxes. Is lowering the tax burden on them worth the lives of all the people losing their homes because they can't afford their taxes now that Christie raised them so the rich could pay less? The point is is that you seemed to be disturbed by their loss and now you're not. Which is it?
Roll Back Our Tax March 09, 2014 at 10:22 AM
BellairBerdan..one more comment for you for today. Those states you mentioned above are in trouble too along with RI and Illinois. Your open end questions take too long answer and I have to repeat myself. You and Ridgewood Mom will figure it out today.
BellairBerdan March 09, 2014 at 10:26 AM
But Roll, why do you want to keep millionaires around if it means raising taxes on people that will lose their homes? I mean if you "get it" it shouldn't be difficult to explain. Losing the rebate was a clear example of redistribution to the wealthy. It has nothing to do with public employee pensions. Now Chrisite wants to take another hit at your peers and give his aides a $33K per year raise. More redistribution upwards.
Chief Wahoo March 09, 2014 at 10:40 AM
You can no longer make an honest living and afford to live in NJ. Simple math.
BellairBerdan March 09, 2014 at 11:08 AM
Those who spent years weakening unions and taking away the benefits of others by thinking that they could negotiate with their employers on their own and get a better deal have turned out to be fools.
grace March 09, 2014 at 12:23 PM
@ rollback :)
Spooner March 09, 2014 at 12:47 PM
@BellairBerdan- according to Friday's NJ Spotlight article, the state has froze state aid to municipalities for the third straight year, nevertheless their budgets keep rising. So when you combine the static state aid with rising expenses, the burden falls on the property owners to dish out more of their money to make up the difference. Roll Back has it correct! Don't see you and Ridgewood Moms point or her diversion respectively? Rich people live in NJ for many reasons: some have to do with family generations living here, others have to do with their jobs and wanting a quiet private suburban life style. Unlike you Ridgewood Mom, it's human nature to not want to pay taxes! The rich will do whatever it takes to avoid paying taxes as 'Roll Back's link examples show. To continue too raise property taxes and income taxes[including other taxes and fees in general] will eventually drive people out of the state if incomes don't rise above or even are commensurate with those increases. . .that's a forgone conclusion!!...http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/03/06/municipal-aid/
Spooner March 09, 2014 at 01:00 PM
@BellairBerdan- you state:"Losing the rebate was a clear example of redistribution to the wealthy... is misleading? Yes there were those who lost their rebate, but there were those whose rebates were cut; not loss, mostly seniors. And your rhetoric making a mathematical connection to the wealthy is misleading as well. Your implying that the wealthy got that lost rebate money. . . not true!
BellairBerdan March 09, 2014 at 01:40 PM
Spooner, your and Roll's position is that if you raise taxes on the rich they will leave. That's not true. It's pretty clear cut. The poor and aged got their taxes raised, the millionaires got their taxes cut. It's all the same American money. To be accurate the first year Christie was in office he cut the rebate totally. He immediately gave the millionaires their tax cut. Now you can parse it all you want, the facts are the facts. If we don't have it to give it back to the ones that need it, how can we have it to give to the ones that don't?
Roll Back Our Tax March 09, 2014 at 03:23 PM
OK BellairBerdan....I'm back. Taking a little lunch break. You've been busy making NO sense again. There's an interesting article released 4 days ago by Forbes entitled "Can NJ Keep It's Rich Taxpayers From Fleeing?".... http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2014/03/05/can-new-jersey-keep-its-rich-taxpayers-from-fleeing/ .... It states two significant trends: "working millionaires leaving New Jersey for Pennsylvania and rich Jersey guys and gals heading to Florida to retire" Probably some that are public worker retirees I would suspect. I knew a few when we lived there in NJ. Knew one in particular that was collecting a pension from Virginia and New Jersey after putting in 20 years at each state. The article goes on to say "the calculus for high earners moving to Pennsylvania is straightforward. New Jersey’s top income tax rate is 8.97%; Pennsylvania’s levy is a flat 3.07%. A reciprocal tax agreement (enacted when the states’ taxes were nearly the same) says that if you live in Pennsylvania and work in New Jersey you pay the Pennsylvania tax" Major executives at large corporations based in New Jersey like Johnson & Johnson and Merck live in Pennsylvania to save a tremendous amount in income tax. The article goes on to say, "Florida’s big draw for retirees is that it is a no income-tax state. It also has no death tax. New Jersey’s estate and inheritance taxes are a sore point for wealthy retirees. New Jersey has the lowest estate tax exemption—at $675,000–of all the states that impose death taxes. Even high-tax neighboring New York has a $1 million exemption, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed increasing it to match the federal exemption, currently $5.34 million". So maybe a good discussion should be "how can you make NJ more competitive"? Repeal the reciprocal tax agreement? Increase the state estate tax exemption? There are two camps these people fall into for the big move. "For people who have transferred to New Jersey say to work on Wall Street for 15 years, it’s easy for them to pick up and move because they don’t have the emotional and family ties to the state ...for people who have grown up in Jersey, it’s a harder decision". Here's the most important part of that article..."Of the 540 clients surveyed, the largest concern was the state’s high property taxes, then estate taxes, then income taxes". So maybe the discussion point should be "CONSOLIDATE MUNICIPALITIES TO HELP LOWER PROPERTY TAXES". Hell there's OVER 500 MUNICIPALITIES IN STATE OF NJ. But ask a law enforcement officer in a high paying law enforcement position "How many chief of police do you need"? A: "Can't take my job". Ask a school administrator in a high paying education position "How many School Superintendents do you need? A: "Can't take my job". They should do it to save their brother and sister's retirement accounts. Right? Here's one more thought how NJ can make money on the small business man. When we lived there and filed taxes, NJ used to send me a corrected tax statement saying "I OWED THEM" just enough $ so they knew I would NOT meet them in tax court. I just paid the tax and shook my head. If they did that to every small business man in NJ, think about the kind of ADDITIONAL revenue they could produce. Have to get back to work. Thanks for listening.
Ridgewood Mom March 09, 2014 at 03:46 PM
Roll Back, from the perspective of balancing our budget, if the way to keep NJ's rich here is to have them not pay taxes then why do we care about keeping them here? There is something plainly lost in the idea of having one's cake and eating it too, there. Moreover, you are expressing a political ideology about fairness toward the rich and not making any sort of meaningful statement about economics, or even simple personal finance. Opinions aside, increasing revenue is as simple of a strategy for balancing a budget as is cutting spending. Both of those work. A combination of those works. Moreover, taxes are generally lower, already, in most parts of New Jersey that are near NYC then they are in other areas near NYC (Long Island or Westchester). There is already great tax incentive for wealthy people from NYC to reside here and there is great business incentive for many large NYC based businesses to operate here.
Spooner March 09, 2014 at 04:14 PM
@Roll Back Our Tax-WOW! Did you touch the "third rail" of the public sector(Consolidation) Been hearing that story; what is it now, going on eight years!! Oh Ridgewood Mom, what brand of Kool-Aid have you been drinking, comparing NJ to NY... Hey NY is promising any company that starts a business there, a 10 year tax exemption for starters. Cuomo unlike Christie is in a stronger position politically to go up against Clinton. What does that say about his governoring compared to Christie!
suz March 09, 2014 at 04:48 PM
Sorry, disagree about Cuomo. He is a man without a backbone.
Roll Back Our Tax March 09, 2014 at 06:41 PM
OK...I am back for a little bit. Took a break but still have to grill and make dinner. Taxing the rich Ridgewood Mom? You tell me if they should leave NJ. Here’s the marginal tax rates for income tax in New Jersey…. http://www.tax-rates.org/new_jersey/income-tax . Who pays the most? The one’s making $500K + topping out at 8.97%. Now while "New Jersey takes a larger share from middle- and low-income families than from wealthy families” (top 1% pay 7% while the bottom 20% pay 11.2%)….as a group the wealthy are still shouldering the most of tax liability than any income group in terms of total revenue and using less in services than the poor who need the government assistance the most… http://www.njpp.org/blog/in-new-jersey-poor-and-middle-income-families-pay-greater-share-of-state-local-taxes-than-the-wealthy . Tax incentives for business….”too little…too late”. Those incentives should have started right after the Great Recession. NJ didn’t start getting aggressive till 2011…. http://www.governing.com/topics/finance/gov-new-jersey-tax-incentive-payoff.html ...every state around them beat them to the punch. "Despite awarding nearly $2 billion in tax incentives, New Jersey's job growth trails other states".
Roll Back Our Tax March 09, 2014 at 06:45 PM
Spooner....in regards to me touching that 3rd rail in regards to public sector consolidation. I was just quoting from that article. Whether the article is wrong or right again...."the pensions are unsustainable" PERIOD! They need to start making cuts in positions if the union membership are not willing to take more concessions because the day of passing increased costs onto the tax payer are done. Game over!
BellairBerdan March 09, 2014 at 07:05 PM
Roll, you are in 2 different camps at the same time. At first your concern was for the elderly and people that could no longer afford their property taxes and had to leave the state. Then miraculously you didn't seem to care that taking their rebate away made them pay in cases that I know of, $1500 more on a $15,000 yearly income. To you it's OK the rich pay less on the shoulders of the poor. For your info, payroll taxes from employees in corporations stay with the corporation since Whitman. They are not remitted to the state, More corporate welfare. People have been retiring to FL from NJ for 70 years. Get the whole story Roll, not only cherrypicked bytes. Use your brain to figure it out, not your copy paste function.
Roll Back Our Tax March 09, 2014 at 07:43 PM
BellairBerdan...maybe I didn't mention my disclaimer. Here's my disclaimer...." I am not running for office nor do I represent any special interest group. I am neither Republican nor Democrat. But if you live in New Jersey and you are a taxpayer in New Jersey please read because...whether you're in the private or public sector....whether you're rich or poor....whether you own a company or work for someone....whether you're retired or still working....whether you're married or single...etc. I have presented facts, shared links with other people's views and opinions, presented mine as well, etc. I made the decision to move out based on whether the public workers salaries, benefits and pensions plan were sustainable for the taxpayers of NJ and the answer I came up with was NO! I don't have all the answers so please use your own judgment". Thanks for listening. I am done here.
Spooner March 09, 2014 at 10:20 PM
@Roll Back Our Tax- that might be your source on mentioning consolidation, but taxpayers paid for public studies that were done to reduce property taxes...www.state.nj.us/.../study/nj9-1-1_consolidation_study_final_report_october06.pdf PS: since your appear to be adept at the law, you might be interested in reading how the PBA and our illustrious Courts added even more to the pot, to milk property owners...http://njlaw.rutgers.edu/collections/courts/appellate/a4416-08.opn.html
grace March 10, 2014 at 10:48 AM
@roll back not that i dont appreciate the state and local police depts but so many of them get to retire and move on to another pension paying job..i admire their brains and know how and position they play in our state but i think 1 pension is enough..just my opinion thats all
grace March 10, 2014 at 10:49 AM
o boy another agreement i have is that when the pension holders get their nj money and take it to another state...not saying it wasnt earned but their should be an incentive to stay and spend here
grace March 10, 2014 at 12:07 PM
saw the case @ spooner its sad...and not just cause lawyer is another one of them!!! lol seems to me unjust to our state that some retired individuals can earn a new paycheck of 200,000 and bring home a 6000 pension every month from the first job..now working on the next pension,,,i admire those people who were smart enough to get this but it has to stop..i say 1 pension is enough ..imho
Brian March 11, 2014 at 03:51 PM
I agree one pension is enough, but on the flip side, many of these jobs would be filled by someone anyone. if someone was fortunate enough to get hired at a young enough age and take another job and get a 2nd pension. That job would still be had by someone regardless. Unless it is some made up job that is given to one of CC's buddies. He has 19 double dippers appointed under his watch alone.

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